When it comes to job hunting, your CV is paramount. There is no universally accepted format. The most important attribute of a successful CV is that it clearly explains to the reader what it is that you can do for them. Your CV should be:
- A well-presented, selling document
- A source of interesting, relevant information
- A script for talking about yourself
The purpose of your CV is not to get you the job. Its purpose is to get you an interview, and after your meeting to remind the person you met with about you. Remember: you are not writing a CV for yourself, you are writing it for the reader. So, as you write your CV, put yourself in the shoes of the intended reader.
What is a CV?
Your CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a personal marketing tool used to sell yourself to prospective employers. It should tell them about you, your professional history, and your skills; ultimately, it should show why you’re the best candidate for the job.
The basic CV format
There are particular sections that employers expect to see on your CV regardless of industry or job role, so we recommend using the following structure:
- Contact details
- Personal statement
- Hobbies and interests
The first part of your CV, positioned at the top of the page, should contain your contact details. This is the very basic stuff: your name, physical address, email address, and phone number, although you might choose to include your LinkedIn URL, too. It’s not necessary to include personal details such as your date of birth, marital status, or religion.
Your personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your CV. It’s where you give an overview of who you are and inject a touch of personality. You should tailor it to every job you apply for, highlighting specific qualities that match you to the role. Aim to keep your personal statement short and sweet, and no longer than a few sentences. To make the most of this section, you should try to address the following:
- Who are you?
- What can you offer the company?
- What are your career goals?
Experience and employment history
This section gives you a chance to outline your previous jobs, internships, and work experience. Your experience should be listed in reverse chronological order. You should state your job title and the dates you worked, followed by your responsibilities. It helps to choose the duties most relevant to the job you’re applying for, especially if it’s a long list. You can experiment with the format, but in this section, bullet points are useful for clarity and highlighting key skills.
Below is a very basic example, but you should take this chance to showcase your strongest areas and your achievements in previous positions.
Administrative Assistant at Company Name
(April 2012 – January 2017)
- Keeping records up-to-date;
- Implementing the new company filing system; and
- Answering phone calls/responding to emails.
Like the Experience section, your education should be listed in reverse chronological order. Include the name of the institutions and the dates you were there, followed by the grades you achieved. If you have a lot of qualifications, there’s no need to list them all; just choose the most relevant. If you have a degree, you could list a few of the most relevant modules you took.
Bullet points are useful in this section, too. For example:
Name of Institution
(September 2009 – July 2011)
- History, Business, English Literature
- Achieved grades A-B
You might look at this section and think you have no achievements, but achievements don’t have to be formal awards. If you’ve done anything you’re particularly proud of, like completing a project or receiving a promotion, you can and should include it. It’s only going to help the recruiter build a picture of you and your successes, so don’t worry about what qualifies as an achievement — if you’re proud of it, let them know.
Hobbies and interests
You don’t need to state your hobbies and interests on your CV, but they help recruiters know more about your personality. If you have any interesting hobbies that make you shine, or if your hobbies relate to the industry you’re going into, you can use this section to build a bigger picture of you as a person. If you’re running low on space, don’t worry too much; just remember that, if worded well, this section could really make you stand out.
Your referees should be your previous employers or your educational tutors, but there’s no need to list all their details in this section. A person’s name, physical address, contact number, and email address are common things to include. Something like the following is fine:
Mr. Junaid Ahmed (Head of Sales)
Sales Company LTD
24, Gulshan, Dhaka
Or, you can save space by simply stating:
References available upon request.
The decision to recruit is like a buying decision on the part of an employer. This creates a very clear picture of what a CV must include:
1. It must meet the needs of the target organisation where possible. This means a single generalist CV is unlikely to be sufficient.
2. It must highlight your achievements and how they relate to the job you are applying for. It must give the reader a clear indication of why you should be considered for this role.
General Tips for writing CV:
- Generally, the document should contain no more than 2 pages. Sometimes, a one page summary is all that is required
- Your CV should be honest and factual.
- The first page should contain enough personal details for a recruitment consultant or potential employer to contact you easily.
- Choose a presentation format that allows you to headline key skills, key achievements or key attributes.
- Your employment history should commence with your current or most recent job and work backwards.
- Achievements should be short, bullet-pointed statements and include your role, the action you took and a comment on the result of your action.
- Where information clearly demonstrates your suitability for the vacancy you're applying for, and enhances your chances of being short-listed, include this information near the beginning of the CV.
- Leave out information that is irrelevant or negative.
- Include details of recent training or skills development events you have attended which could be relevant.
- List all your professional memberships and relevant qualifications.
- Check your spelling and grammar.
- Proofread for any sentences that could be written more concisely
- Read your CV as if you were the company you are applying to.
- Get someone else to read your CV
Rules for writing an effective cover letter
A good resume can score you a job. But a well-crafted cover letter can help your CV get noticed. In today’s era of online job applications, many candidates choose to forgo sending this introductory letter. A grave oversight, when you consider most employers claim a cover letter is critical as it helps them short-list candidates.
A good cover letter provides context for a resume. It allows you to pitch for the job, by sharing what you know about the future employer and elaborating your accomplishments that are relevant to their business. It also helps explain gaps in your CV, like employment breaks or career switches if any.
The objective of a cover letter isn’t just to show you as a prospective candidate, but to introduce you as one.
To write an effective cover letter, keep it brief and to-the-point (ideally, not more than half a page), address the appropriate person in the organization and ensure that the document contains no errors. In addition to these basic rules, keep these five rules in mind:
1. Write a strong opening line
An effective cover letter must begin on a strong note. Recruiters go through hundreds of applications a day, so you need to be able to catch his/her attention with a good opening line. There are several approaches you could use for this. The tried and tested way is to introduce yourself and get to the point immediately. This will make you sound crisp and businesslike. Other methods include conveying your enthusiasm for the job or expressing a positive observation about the company. Irrespective of what approach you take, ensure you have a gripping and original first line.
2. Sound excited
The best cover letters always adopt an enthusiastic tone. No one wants to meet a listless candidate, so use the opportunity that the cover letter gives you to sound animated about yourself and the position you are applying for. The tone and attitude reflected in your cover letter is a significant intangible that will influence a hiring manager’s decision of whether to call you for an interview or not. So be sure to sound positive and eager about the job.
3. Use the right keywords
An effective cover letter makes generous use of keywords to convey the message that the applicant possesses the attributes required for the job. Avoid clichés and opt for descriptive adjectives. For e.g., instead of calling yourself a hard worker, say, “I have a tremendous capacity for work”.
Keywords related to a specific job can usually be found in the job advertisement, where the recruiters will list the skills and qualities required. To write an effective cover letter, scan the job details carefully and incorporate as many relevant keywords as you can without making it seem contrived.
4. Make your cover letter reader-friendly
Since the hiring manager has to go through several applications within a limited time, make your letter as easy to read as possible. Use formatting elements like bullet points, underlines, italics and capital letters to emphasize key points. Not only will this convey your message more effectively, it will also make your letter more aesthetically appealing.
5. Share facts and figures
Recruiters are always on the lookout for reasons to hire you. An effective cover letter should spell out why a candidate thinks he/she is the best person for the job and this case needs to be backed up with sufficient evidence of past achievements. A good strategy is to pick out a couple of your most important accomplishments relevant to the position you are seeking and supplement them with numbers. For instance, share profit percentages, budgets or time frames to highlight your successes instead of just pluralizing your accomplishments so that a hiring manager knows exactly what you can do when he/she reads your letter. Saying, “Improved production efficiency” doesn’t have the same ring as “Created processes that boosted production by 15%”.
Top tips to keep in mind while writing a cover letter
- Source the name of the person you are writing to. Avoid generalizations like Dear Madam/Sir or HR Manager.
- Don’t go on about what a job with the company means to you. Instead focus on what you can do for them.
- Don’t end by saying you’ll wait to hear from them. Ask for an interview or state your intentions to follow up with a phone call.
- Avoid cliches like “Find my resume enclosed”. The person reading your letter can see there is a CV attached.
- Don’t ramble on about your career. Tailor the letter specifically to the job you are applying for.
- Use strong words like “I am convinced” instead of “I feel” to make an impact.
- Your letter reflects your ability to write and communicate. So make sure you proofread it before sending it out.